Hair pollution

| October 05, 2005

Hair care doesn’t mean squirting a pound of gel into your hair and sculpting a wild ‘do, but it does mean making sure that the hair you have is healthy.

How does your hair look? Your hair can be a reflection of your general health, and taking care of it is more than just trying to look good.

Dandruff, itchy scalp, dry or oily hair and hair loss are all hair care issues that are treatable and preventable with the right know-how.

Dandruff
Known also as seborrhea, dandruff is an inflammation of the scalp that is normally the result of excess oil. Flakes are white and spread throughout the hair. If flakiness includes severe redness, inflammation and blisters, the condition is dermatitis or eczema and should be treated by a doctor. Flakes that are yellow and accompanied by red, itchy skin around the eyebrows, nose and beard could be a condition called seborrhoeic dermatitis. A doctor can also treat this condition.

To treat dandruff, one shampoo may not be enough. Buy a shampoo with antifungal and antibacterial ingredients, one with zinc and one with salicylic acid. Use one shampoo for a few days and then switch. If the flakes haven’t disappeared in a couple of months, see a dermatologist for a prescription shampoo.

Dry flakiness and itchy scalp
Although similar to dandruff, dry flakiness is characterized by white, powdery flakes on the head and around the nape of the neck. Dry weather can affect your scalp, so change to a moisturizing product until the flakes disappear or the weather changes.

Terri Gaines, hair stylist for 13 years at Iowa 80 truckstop, sees a lot of trucker pates every day. Changing water from state to state can cause dry, itchy scalp, she says. Gaines also recommends using a leave-in conditioner to combat dryness.

If your scalp is perpetually dry, use a shampoo that says “mild” or “gentle” and look for the ingredient sodium laureth sulfate. And don’t take excessively hot showers, as hot water has a drying affect on hair and skin.

Wearing your hair in a ponytail and under a cap all day can cause an itchy scalp as well, so remember to take a break and leave that hat on the dashboard for a few hours.

Oily hair
As with dry hair, some people just have naturally oily hair. A certain amount of oil is healthy to maintain the hair follicles, but excess oil can cause hair to look dirty and unkempt.

Greasy hair must be washed nearly every day, especially if it is thin or short. Choose a gentle shampoo and a light conditioner, and massage shampoo only into the scalp with the flat part of your fingers rather than the tips. Shampooing your hair with dishwashing liquid will also help control the oil, although it may be too drying to use every day. Also, don’t brush or comb your hair excessively because the activity stimulates oil production.

Scalp acne
Breakouts can happen anywhere, especially on your scalp. You can treat scalp acne the same way you would treat any breakout by applying a skin cleanser with salicylic acid to the breakout area with a cotton ball. Astringents and creams are also effective in drying up breakouts, but only use these products on the skin area because they will dry out your hair. Do not use acne treatments with a peroxide ingredient on your scalp because they could change the color of your hair. This is especially important if you have chemically- or color-treated hair because the strands are already porous and easily damaged.

Thinning hair and hair loss
While hair loss is common, it doesn’t have to inevitable. For many people, genetics plays a role in male or female pattern baldness, and you only have to look as far as your own father or mother to see where your hair is heading. This type of baldness happens when your hair starts to recede, beginning at the temples or crown. The hair looks weaker there than on other parts of the head and eventually falls out.

Male pattern baldness is related to 95 percent of all hair loss in men, and while it is treatable, a lot of men prefer to just go with it or shave their heads completely. Hair loss products containing minoxidil can treat hair loss when applied regularly, and some are available over the counter. Prescription treatments are also available, but both treatments may take up to six months to work.

If your daddy has a full head of hair and your own hair is falling out, there may be another reason for your loss. If you just had a major surgery or illness, it is normal to lose hair from stress and certain medications. Medicines that cause hair loss include blood thinners, gout medicines, medicines used in chemotherapy, too much vitamin A, birth control pills and antidepressants.

Hair loss may also be a symptom of an underlying disease, such as lupus or diabetes, so if you are experiencing sudden hair loss, contact a physician immediately for an examination. Alopecia areata, a disorder of the immune system that causes hair to fall out in small circles around your head, is treatable as well by rubbing one percent hydrocortisone cream into each bald circle. If that doesn’t work, see a doctor who may prescribe topical or injectible steroids.

Hair care doesn’t mean squirting a pound of gel into your hair and sculpting a wild ‘do, but it does mean making sure that the hair you have is healthy. While all of the hair care tips are applicable in most situations, make sure to check with your doctor before using medical treatments and if you are experiencing sudden hair loss.
–Rachel Telehany

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